The Perseverance Rover lifted off successfully on 30th July 2020 at 11:50 UTC aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The rover is presently traveling at an average speed of 77,000 km to the Red Planet and will begin its descent on 18th February 2021 after which it will make its landing in Jerezo Crater to begin its science phase.
The rover is carrying the helicopter Ingenuity which is an experimental aircraft meant to establish whether a flight is feasible in the Martian atmosphere The Perseverance rover has four scientific objectives that support the Mars Exploration Program’s scientific goals
• Looking for Habitability: identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
• Seeking biosignatures: seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs over time
• Caching samples: collect core rock and "soil" samples and store them on the Martian surface.
• Preparing for humans: test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.
It is presently carrying seven scientific instruments as the payload:
• Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL): It’s an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine the fine-scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials.
• Radar Image for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX): - It’s a ground-penetrating radar to image different ground densities, structural layers, buried rocks, meteorites, and detect underground water ice and salty brine at 10 meters (33 ft) depth. The RIMFAX is being provided by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI).
• Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE): It's an exploration technology investigation that will produce a small amount of Oxygen (O2) from Martian atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This technology could be scaled up in the future for human life support or to make the rocket fuel for return missions
• SuperCam: - It’s an instrument suite that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy in rocks and regolith from a distance. It is an upgraded version of the ChemCam on the Curiosity rover but with two lasers and four spectrometers that will allow it to remotely identify biosignatures and assess the past habitability of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP) in France, the French Space Agency (CNES), the University of Hawaii, and the University of Valladolid in Spain cooperated in the SuperCam's development and manufacture
• Mastcam-Z: - It’s a stereoscopic imaging system with the ability to zoom.
• Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC): It’s an ultraviolet Raman spectrometer that uses fine-scale imaging and an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds